If you’re looking for a first-rate training airport for daylight use, look no further.
Of course, there’s a problem with this statement. Maybe not a problem, but certainly an issue or two you need to be aware of. If you need such an airport in Washington State, or in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, this is a first-rate training file – for daylight OPS.
KAWO Arlington Municipal airport has two runways and lots of hangers; the file for X-plane is set on a truly immersive “ortho” mesh, so from this limited perspective, this file has got you covered. There’s a nearby town, Arlington, Washington, that’s modeled and placed on the mesh, and it looks good from pattern altitude – and even lower than that. There are a few rather unique terrain enhancements that more developers could certainly take a look at, and some rather “interesting” training aids that have made a come-back in this file, but that are still somewhat useful for helping rookies get oriented around an airport.
There are gliders on the grounds, so, given the nature of the surrounding climate and terrain, I’d assume soaring is a big deal here, and that adds to the training milieu. Over on the south end, there are training helicopters, too.
Below, you can see evidence of the extensive use of ortho-underlays everywhere you look around this airport, and while most orthos break down when you get lower than, say, 1500 feet, these hold up very well almost all the way down to the runway. Impressive, and very immersive.
Like another recent release, KTTF Custer, there are lots of soccer fields and baseball diamonds around the airport, and all you need do is take one peek in GoogleEarthPRO to verify their placement. And, as seen at KTTF, there’s an ambulance and a Citation parked just off the main ramp.
Runway and taxiway markings are perfect, and signage is excellent, day or night. This is a bonus when using this file as a training aid.
A lot of surrounding detail has been included, and not just included but built-up to the same, if not better, standard as the airport. Below, an earth-moving equipment yard just behind the SE hanger sheds…
…and note the detail here. This is one of the better-constructed areas in the file, too.
And the aforesaid mentioned playing fields; they’re all over the town of Arlington, so don’t get them confused…
Now, let’s slip over to KTTF Custer, a file we reviewed some time ago but which is decidedly relevant in any comparison to KAWO Arlington. The next three images are from the KTTF Custer/Gateway file by Attitude Simulations, but let’s explain ourselves a little before we look at the images.
These three images of night textures and lighting have been included as they represent the current BEST THERE IS IN X-PLANE, but this is a VERY subjective statement. The file we’re looking at today, KAWO Arlington Area UHD, by airfoillabs, purports to offer an Ultra-high-definition experience, though exactly what constitutes a UHD environment in X-plane is, as yet, a somewhat vague advertising construct. Looking over the file we can interpret UHD to mean a very high-definition ortho-mesh, as well as a file including a very high fidelity model of what’s on the ground in Washington state. That said, we have NOT been to this airport, ever, so have no way to substantiate the validity of this assumption – so what follows may or may not be a valid criticism. As such, it’s merely an observation.
When we look at the KTTF file by Attitude Simulations (above and below), we see bright lighting on buildings with some spillover onto ramps. Incidental lighting away from buildings is bright and lights-up surrounding areas.
Again, look these over, refer to them when looking over the night images from KAWO. Settings are identical, by the way, with HDR at MAX, Textures at MAX, AA at MAX, and reflections at LOW.
Below, now let’s start looking at images from KAWO. First up, a long shot, looking from south to North over some older hangers.
Next, (below) turning onto one of the principal ramp areas, with the Thranda Quest Kodiak’s landing lights ON and lighting up the area.
(below) Pulling in to “park” near the main ramp area, again with the Kodiak’s landing lights ON.
Now, below, with the Kodiak’s lights OFF.
Now, again, we’ve NOT been to this airport and what we see here may well be 100% accurate, but to us it looks really, REALLY dark. Unrealistically dark, like “someone forgot to pay their electric bill” dark.
Below, these two excellently lighted buildings are located at what appears to be a demolished vehicles scrapyard. But…while they are well lighted they are NOT on the airport grounds.
Below, this FBO style building is very – odd. There’s a corner room, with one side lighted and the other dark, which, sorry to say, has been, heretofore, an impossibility, at least in our experience, anyway. The other lighting on the building is simply inadequate. It casts no light on the building and very little on the ground.
To us, for a payware file asking a premium price, this lighting is inconsistent with a top-tier product – unless it is 100% representative of what’s really on the ground in Washington. We doubt that it is, but that too is a subjective doubt…otherwise known as an opinion.
Most of the buildings on display here may indeed be 100% accurate representations of the original; again, we have no idea, one way or another. In daylight, these buildings look very good, quite aged, and the newer hangers on the south end have modeled interiors. A nice touch.
Again, if UHD simply means high-quality (high definition) ortho-textures were used, then this file succeeds in that regard.
This approach, over what appears to be a construction area, is exemplary. AND, beyond a simple texture, there are built up mounds of earth and earth moving equipment is at work. A first-rate piece of artistry, in other words.
And one of a number of small details that add a lot to the immersive nature of the file.
This carries over to nearby rivers and lakes, which include custom-made textures that may well be the best of their sort we’ve ever seen in X-plane. Again, these details add to the “UHD” experience, especially when compared to similar, stock features in Xp.
Another area where this file differs from current offerings is to bring back the visual training aid seen below, which has been found in years past (long past, actually) in arcade style games and even in X-plane. The purple rectangular hoops form an array around the airport, in a number of pre-defined pattern formations, allowing pilots to fly the airport’s various established patterns with this very useful training aid in place. Before you scoff or laugh it off, try it a few times. It’s accessed through the dedicated plug-in, under airfoillabs>KAWO.
The formation is visible from anywhere near the airport, night or day, though we did not try this under instrument conditions.
Pulling onto the runway, you can immediately see the entrance to the pattern formation…and your initial climbing turns…
…and as you take off and climb, the idea is to stay within the “hoops” – and the only way to do so is to keep your speed under constant control – and to make coordinated turns while maintaining pattern altitude. It’s actually quite fun.
As a training aid, this is an extremely good tool – as it forces the student pilot to get his or her eyes out of the cockpit, looking ahead and through the next turn – as concentrating on the next hoop ahead will often lead to failure.
Looking ahead and through the turn allows the student pilot to develop an eye for the various spatial relationships during the three primary phases of flying a pattern (takeoff/climb, downwind/cruise, landing/descent), so while the student is busy tending to the airplane he or she also has to monitor their progress through the hoops – or the pattern. Blowing out of the hoop/pattern gives immediate feedback and the student a chance to self-evaluate, always an optimal training method.
Flying a pattern like this, then playing it back in video mode, give students another tool to rate their own performance.
A NAVaid of sorts we’ve not seen before is also included. These three arrow-like pointers (below) can be activated through the plug-in architecture, in effect pointing to the three airports included with this file. In all fairness, besides KAWO, the other two “airports” are simple mowed grass strips and we’re not sure why they were included, but they’re there if you want them.
Again, for someone in the earliest phases of primary flight school, these may be good to have, but, as a trainee, I’d hate to get in the habit of relying on them. The pattern aid is visible behind the closer arrows.
There is limited IFR charting available for this airport, including LOC RWY 34, NDB RWY 34, and RNAV RWY 34. Boeing Paine Field in Everett is 19 miles away, bearing 198º. Vancouver, BC is 83 miles, 326º – and that may give you some idea of the utility this file may soon provide. There are already a number of freeware airports in British Columbia lining the so-called “Inside Passage”, as well as a very dated payware package by that name. BUT, Orbx has stated they’re porting files to Xp, so, in the near future, we may have a whole bunch of very interesting files in the area to choose from.
And, as we’ve always been strong advocates of basing yourself at one airport, KAWO already ties into a vast network of regional airports in BC to choose from. It also offers whatever Orbx brings to the party…perhaps…in the near future? So…buy now and start getting familiar with the region? Sounds prudent, and we recommend you give it some thought, too.
And, this is also a first-class training airport that offers more than a little fun for anyone in Xp, no matter your skill level.
That said, in our OPINION the lighting in this file doesn’t look very good – though, we assume, it could easily be improved. And that alone, in our book, keeps this file from rating a perfect 10 out of 10.
As there is an auto-update capability built into the plug-in architecture, we’re looking forward to seeing a brighter way ahead for this file. As is, it’s a 9 out of 10. For those living and training in and around Arlington, Washington, this is a 10 out of 10, must have file. If you’re “into” orthos and other such things, this file is going to impress you, and the details off the airport grounds are as interesting as those on site. It would be fun to hop on a virtual Ducati, perhaps, and have a go at some of those mountain roads…?
We’re off, but we’ll see you again soon. Thanks for coming along. – A